So, no, I’m not willing—or probably even able—to relinquish my life of individualistic yearnings, all of which are the birthright of my modernity. Like most human beings, once I’ve been shown the options, I will always opt for more choices for my life: expressive choices, individualistic choices, inscrutable and indefensible and sometimes risky choices, perhaps . . . but they will all be mine. In fact, the sheer number of choices that I’d already been offered in my life—an almost embarrassing cavalcade of options—would have made the eyes pop out of the head of my friend the Hmong grandmother. As a result of such personal freedoms, my life belongs to me and resembles me to an extent that would be unthinkable in the hills of northern Vietnam, even today. It’s almost as if I’m from an entirely new strain of woman (Homo limitlessness, you might call us). And while we of this brave new species do have possibilities that are vast and magnificent and almost infinate in scope, it’s important to remember that our choice-rich lives have the potential to breed their own brand of trouble. We are susceptible to emotional uncertainties and neuroses that are probably not very common among the Hmong, but that run rampant these days among my contemporaries in, say, Baltimore.
The study examined a group of city bus drivers over a period of two weeks. They found that employees who put on a fake smile for the job were in a worse mood by the end of the day. But drivers who genuinely smiled as a result of positive thoughts actually reported being in a better mood by the end of the day. So when you smile, make sure to mean it!
The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice. (I have a friend who second-guesses herself so compulsively that her husband jokes her autobiography will someday be titled I Should’ve Had the Scampi.) Equally disquieting are the times when we do make a choice, only to later feel as though we have murdered some other aspect of our being by settling on one single concrete decision. By choosing Door Number Three, we fear we have killed off a different—but equally critical—Piece of our soul that could only have been made manifest by walking through Door Number One or Door Number Two.
The characteristics of someone in romantic love “…include focused attention on the preferred individual, rearrangement of priorities, increased energy, mood swings, sympathetic nervous system responses including sweating and a pounding heart, emotional dependence, elevated sexual desire, sexual possessiveness, obsessive thinking about him or her, craving for emotional union with this preferred individual, affiliative gestures, goal oriented behaviors, and intense motivation to obtain and retain this particular mating partner.” (Fisher et al, 2010, p.56).
Spend more time with your loved ones. Spending more time with the people you love – and the people who make you happy – is guaranteed to make you feel happier. If you’re feeling just a little bit down in the dumps, call up a good friend or family member instead of wallowing, and plan something fun to do later. You may feel like your mopey mood will drag people down, but instead, being with your close friends will lift you up and make you feel happier.
Indeed, Mai was from Vietnam, but I realized later she would never have called herself Vietnamese. She was Hmong—a member of a small, proud, isolated ethnic minority (what anthropologists call “an original people”) who inhabit the highest mountain peaks of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and China. Kurdish-like, the Hmong have never really belonged to any of the countries in which they live. They remain some of the world’s most spectacularly independent people—nomads, storytellers, warriors, natural-born anticonformists, and a terrible bane to any nation that has ever tried to control them.
5. Look for meaning. Re-frame an event to see the positive along with the negative. Maybe getting fired will give you the push you need to move to the city where you’ve always wanted to live. Maybe your illness has strengthened your relationships with your family. You don’t need to be thankful that something bad has happened, but you can try to find positive consequences even in a catastrophic event.
And so I might have gone on blithely assuming, except that my encounter with the Hmong had knocked me off course in one critical regard: For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that perhaps I was asking too much of love. Or, at least, perhaps I was asking too much of marriage. Perhaps I was loading a far heavier cargo of expectation onto the creaky old boat of matrimony than that strange vessel had ever been built to accommodate in the first place.
Figure out a small, meaningful action you can take right now to work toward a better future—what Gielan calls a “now step.” Say, for example, you need a new car but you can’t afford it. Consider what you can you do at this moment—such getting a small coffee instead of a grande mocha. That won’t solve all your money problems, but a small step like that allows your brain to register a small ‘win,’ moving you forward from the problem to what you can do about it right now,” Gielan explains.
But what about that consistency we all crave, which comes only from true commitment? That’s a lot harder. But absolutely possible. Commitment begins with desire. Each person has to want it and be willing to sacrifice for the other. It takes shifting the way we view ourselves and giving up something, in order to give to someone else. Thing is, it’s not as hard as you might think.
This is the type of love that is the stuff of countless poems, songs, films, and fantasies. The all-consuming, heart-skips-a-beat, shooting stars in the sky during a kiss, can’t wait until he/she calls, crazy kind of love. Most committed partnerships start here (romantic love usually doesn’t last more than a year), in the phase of intensity, “connection”, longing, focus, and feeling that is hard to describe and feels special. What a ride this can be! This is the stage where people generally describe being “in love” or “falling in love”, and is the stage of courting and being in a state of “fusion”.
And while it is undisputed that Young Romance created the romance genre in comics, I think honorable mention should also be given to Calling All Girls published by Parent’s Magazine, which debuted in July, 1941. Primarily filled with comics, Calling All Girls was the first comic to be marketed to girls. Calling All Girls also contained short stories and advice on fashion and manners. Calling All Girls contained some of the earliest romance stories (mostly in text form) and bridged the gap between pulps and comics. As a result of paper shortages, Calling All Girls stopped including comics in January 1946, the year before Young Romance was released. Interestingly, neither Parents Magazine nor Calling All Girls would get back into the romance comics business even at the height of the popularity of the genre in 1950.